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Nebraska Women’s Basketball vs Michigan: Preview

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The Husker women open Big Ten Tournament play with a chance to avenge a regular season loss to the Wolverines

FloSports: FloVolleyball NCAA Women's Championship-Lincoln Regional Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Note: The Husker men play at 1 pm (central) and the baseball team plays at 3 pm. We haven’t decided if we’ll post one, two, or three game threads today, but check CN throughout the day to join the discussion/thread that you want.

No. 3 Seed Nebraska Cornhuskers (20-9, 11-5 Big Ten) vs. No. 6 Seed Michigan Wolverines (22-8, 10-6 Big Ten)
Friday, March 2, Game 9 (approx. 7:30 p.m.)
Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Indianapolis)
Television
Live Video: BTN2Go(Lisa Byington, Christy Winters Scott)
Live Radio: Husker Sports Network (7 p.m.) Matt Coatney (PBP), Jeff Griesch (Analyst) Lincoln - B107.3 FM; Omaha - ESPN 590 AM
Free Live Audio: Huskers.com/Huskers & TuneIn Apps
Live Stats

The Husker women get to work tonight on polishing their NCAA tournament resume when they take on Michigan. The Wolverines hammered Penn State last night 77-48. The Wolverines are ranked #24 in polls and are led by a pair of high-scoring players in Hallie Thome and Katelyn Flaherty.

In the first meeting between Nebraska and Michigan this season, the Wolverines escaped from Lincoln with a 69-64 overtime win on Jan. 13. This will be a tough game for Nebraska and will take some very complete team basketball to come away with the win.

Nebraska has been a bit shorthanded recently as Darrien Washington and Bria Stallworth did not suit up for the final game of the regular season. Taylor Kissinger went out of the last game with an elbow injury. I don’t know if they will be available or not for tonight’s game. If Washington is unavailable, Rachel Blackburn may be called upon to step up in the middle to give Kate Cain some rest or if she racks up early fouls. Kissinger’s scoring ability could be needed to keep up with the high-flying Wolverines.

Nebraska Cornhuskers (20-9 11-5 Big Ten)
24 - Maddie Simon - 6-2 - Jr. - F - 10.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg
31 - Kate Cain - 6-5 - Fr. - C - 10.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg
3 - Hannah Whitish - 5-9 - So. - G - 12.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg
5 - Nicea Eliely - 6-1 - So. - G - 8.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg
34 - Jasmine Cincore - 5-10 - Sr. - F - 6.4 ppg, 4.1 rpg

#24 Michigan Wolverines (22-8, 10-6 Big Ten)
11 - Jillian Dunston - 5-11 - Sr. - F - 3.4 ppg, 9.1 rpg
30 - Hallie Thome - 6-5 - Jr. - C - 16.9 ppg, 7.3 rpg
3 - Katelynn Flaherty - 5-7 - Sr. - G - 23.5 ppg, 2.7 rpg
10 - Nicole Munger - 5-11 - Jr. - G - 9.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg
20 - Deja Church - 5-10 - Fr. - G - 7.1 ppg, 2.7 rpg

• Flaherty, a 5-7 senior guard, earned first-team All-Big Ten honors for the second straight year. She averages 23.5 points, 2.7 rebounds and a team-leading 4.4 assists. An elite shooter, Flaherty has hit 105-of-251 threes (.418) this season and 89.1 percent (123-138) of her free throws. She opened the Big Ten Tournament with 21 points, including 5-of-10 threes, to go along with five assists in the win over Penn State. In the first meeting with Nebraska this season, Flaherty led four Wolverines in double figures with 26 points.

• While Flaherty leads the Wolverines on the perimeter, 6-5 junior Hallie Thome is the focus in the paint. The second-team All-Big Ten center is averaging 16.9 points and 7.3 rebounds while shooting 62.1 percent from the field and 78.5 percent (106-135) from the free throw line. She also leads Michigan with 43 blocked shots. Thome managed 13 points, nine rebounds, three assists and three steals in the first meeting with the Big Red.

• Hailey Brown, a 6-1 forward, produced a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds in the first meeting with the Huskers. But the freshman starter suffered a season-ending lower leg injury in the loss to Michigan State on Feb. 11.

• Brown has been replaced in the starting lineup by fellow freshman Deja Church. The 5-10 freshman guard played an instrumental role in Michigan’s win over Nebraska on Jan. 13. Church was awarded three free throws with 0.7 seconds left after Nebraska’s Nicea Eliely was whistled for a foul after blocking Church’s desperation three-point attempt in the corner in front of Michigan’s bench. Church stepped to the line and sank all three free throws to send the game to overtime tied at 62. Michigan prevailed in overtime, 69-64, which included two more free throws from Church. She finished with 10 points off the bench. She is averaging 7.1 points and 2.7 rebounds on the season and had nine points and four rebounds in Thursday night’s win over Penn State.

• Michigan features two of the conference’s most successful role players in senior Jillian Dunston and junior Nicole Munger. Dunston, a 5-11 forward, is one of the Big Ten’s best defenders and can guard all five spots on the floor. She also leads Michigan with 9.1 rebounds per game. She is shooting just 37.1 percent this season and is 0-for-5 from three-point range, while also connecting on just 43.5 percent (10-23) of her free throws. But she leads Michigan with 50 steals and ranks second on the team with 109 assists. Dunston had six points and five rebounds in the first meeting with Nebraska. Dunston had two points on her only field goal attempt and managed five rebounds and three assists in Thursday night’s win over Penn State.

• Munger, a 5-11 junior guard, is averaging 9.7 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. Munger has buried 59-of-140 three-pointers (.421) on the season to help Michigan keep the floor spread for Thome and take some pressure off Flaherty. The Huskers held Munger without a field goal in the first meeting, as she finished with just one point, while adding four assists and six rebounds. However, in 2016-17, Munger scored 18 points on 4-of-6 three-point shooting in a win over the Huskers in Lincoln. Munger had five points and seven assists in Michigan’s win over Penn State on Thursday night.

• Although Michigan does not have a deep bench, especially with the season-ending injury to Hailey Brown, the Wolverines have been getting quality production from sophomores Akienreh Johnson (3.5 ppg, 2.4 rpg), Kayla Robbins (3.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg) and KeAsja Peace (1.5 ppg, 0.9 rpg). All three Wolverines bring size, athleticism and length to provide flexibility off the bench for Michigan.

Nebraska vs. Michigan Series History

• Tonight’s meeting with Michigan will be the first in the Big Ten Tournament in history between the two teams. It also will be the first-ever neutral site meeting between the two schools in women’s basketball.

• Nebraska leads the all-time series with Michigan 11-4, but the Wolverines have won three consecutive games in the series, including a 69-64 overtime win over the Huskers in Lincoln on Jan. 13.